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Integration in the Fullerton Elementary School Districe 1970 to 1972



  • A new superintendent came to town in September 1970.  D. Russell Parks finally retired and his reign of segregation was over.  First thing Superintendent Robert Crawford set about was to address the “ethnic imbalance” of the Fullerton Elementary School District.

    That was the cover story for closing Maple Elementary School.  “I never did understand why they closed Maple School,” said a woman who had been in the last Maple sixth grade class in 1972.

    The underlying reason for closing Maple was that the residents of the new and affluent neighborhood called President Homes wanted their own elementary school.  The nearest was Rolling Hills School.  The objection to that school by the President Homesians was that their children would have to cross Brea Boulevard, it was said.  But financing assistance from the state was allocated only on the basis of facility square footage per pupil.  Therefore, to get state financing, Fullerton Elementary District had to have less classroom space.

    Crawford’s  plan included the formation of a citizens advisory committee which was intended to recommend closing Maple School, 98.5% minority students.  Without a neighborhood school, all those students would be bussed to various other schools.  That ultimate plan was adopted by the school board, but rocks arose in the road to its achievement.

    I read of the intended committee in the Fullerton News Tribune, that representatives of local
    organizations would be appointed.*  I telephoned Lorril Senefeld, chair of the Fullerton Fair Housing Council, foundation of the later Orange County Fair Housing Council.  “Lorril,” I said, “The Fair Housing Council needs to be represented on that committee, and Mary Stewart would be an excellent person to be our representative.”

    Lorril called me back, said Mary  had declined and had said I would be an excellent representative.  “Well, ok,” I said.  And so started my second significant political education.  And put paid to Robert
    Crawford’s plan, as it happened.

    No one knew anyone else, among the citizens**–school district employees were included in the
    committee–but everyone knew John Jimenez, principal of Maple School.  The representative of a Rotary Club, Roland Hiltscher,  nominated him to be chair of the committee, and he was duly elected at our first meeting.  As I recall, Roland never came to another meeting.  “Idiot!” someone said to me later.  “When people don’t know each other in committee work, you elect an interim chair to serve until you do get to know who’s who.”

    We began in February 1971.   First thing we had done, at the behest of Peggy Martin, AAUW and Elizabeth Beebe, League of Women Voters, was to draft a statement of principles to be adopted by the Board of Trustees so that we could be clear as to what the Board policy was in regard to the obligations and expectations for our task.  Jimenez didn’t like that, but he could not block it.


School Choice


Is there a month that goes by without an article in the Register about reforming public schools? Gloria Romero wrote her opinions September 10 and October 29, and more to come. She is, after all, an “education reformer.”

Gloria’s big thing is her “Open Enrollment” law. “Choice” is what parents should have, she and others advocate.

Fullerton elementary school district established “choice” for all of us in 1972 when Robert Crawford was superintendent. Unfortunately, then-superintendent Duncan Johnson took it away again in 1983.

Yes indeed, on May 9, 1972, the Fullerton Elementary School District Board of Trustees voted and adopted a policy that said parents who wanted a particular alternative style or approach to the education of their children could establish such a school and work with teachers to do so. The choices were suggested to be an open or “free school” mode, a more strictly disciplined model known as “fundamental” school or just stay with the middle of the road.

A group of parents took up that offer – they after all had initiated the demand for it – and implemented a free school model known as Community Open School. It was located at Maple School on Valencia Avenue. The school board had closed Maple for their one-way bussing solution to Fullerton’s segregated schools.

Ironically, some of those same parents had been on the District’s 33-member Human Relations Advisory Committee appointed to solve the integration problem, and that committee had overwhelmingly recommended to the Board that a system of choice be established and students assigned to schools on an integrated basis, with Maple School to remain a neighborhood school.

I was an essential trekker in both adventures, the Human Relations Advisory Committee and the establishment of Community Open School. And thus I acquired a great deal of political experience.

The term “alternative school” has sometimes been mischaracterized by calling continuation schools by that name.  The true definition of alternative school is laid out in the California Education Code.

California state law says that parents and teachers are entitled to ask for an alternative school.   Notice of that entitlement is to be posted in the window of each school’s office during the month of March.  Here is the current version:  California Education Code  Alternative Schools [58500 – 58512] ( Chapter 3 enacted by Stats. 1976, 1010.) The following notice shall be sent along with the notification of parents and guardians required by Section 48980:        Notice of Alternative Schools:    California state law authorizes all school districts to provide for alternative schools. Section 58500 of the Education Code defines alternative school as a school or separate class group within a school which is operated in a manner designed to:

  1. (a) Maximize the opportunity for students to develop the positive values of self-reliance, initiative, kindness, spontaneity, resourcefulness, courage, creativity, responsibility, and joy.
    (b) Recognize that the best learning takes place when the student learns because of his desire to learn.
    (c) Maintain a learning situation maximizing student self-motivation and encouraging the student in his own time to follow his own interests. These interests may be conceived by him totally and independently or may result in whole or in part from a presentation by his teachers of choices of learning projects.
    (d) Maximize the opportunity for teachers, parents and students to cooperatively develop the learning process and its subject matter. This opportunity shall be a continuous, permanent process.
    (e) Maximize the opportunity for the students, teachers, and parents to continuously react to the changing world, including but not limited to the community in which the school is located.
    In the event any parent, pupil, or teacher is interested in further information concerning alternative schools, the county superintendent of schools, the administrative office of this district, and the principal’s office in each attendance unit have copies of the law available for your information. This law particularly authorizes interested persons to request the governing board of the district to establish alternative school programs in each district.”
    Further, a copy shall be posted in at least two places normally visible to pupils, teachers, and visiting parents in each attendance unit for the entire month of March in each year.
    (Amended by Stats. 1981, Ch. 469, Sec. 3.)

Is this ever done?